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May 1, 2013

NEW ALBANY BICENTENNIAL: Race riots of July 1862

(Continued)

NEW ALBANY —

More than 150 years later, an Indiana State Historical marker was erected outside the Israel House on Main Street to remember the riots and those who went above and beyond to rescue others in need.

“The fact New Albany came forward… (with) the Floyd County Historical Society sharing the cost of putting the marker up, I think that was a very important step forward for New Albany that we publicly acknowledged that this race riot happened,” Peters said. “It gave us the chance to publicly acknowledge that we have a part of our past that is very unfortunate.”

With some certainty, bravery wasn’t limited only to whites providing security to persecuted blacks during that July day. As the predominantly black sections of town were attacked, it’s extremely likely other black residents rose to help those in need. But those stories have been lost, as are so many other accounts from black Hoosiers during that difficult time. Many left the area. After this particular race riot, more than 30 black families fled across the Indiana border away from the threat of violence. 

To preserve this newfound history, the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany has dedicated a part of their permanent Underground Railroad exhibit to the race riots. Admission is free. For more information, check out carnegiecenter.org. 

“Every community has parts of its past that they don’t want to remember. Communities want their history to make them look good so they deliberately don’t pass on the unfortunate parts of the past history,” Peters said. “My goal is that it will make us more aware of the future and that we can’t let it happen again.”

 

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